Accidental reading

It was 9.40 pm last Friday and the announcement at Kino/kuniya KLCC called for customers to quickly make their final purchases before they close shop. The husband hurried to me, a bunch of books already in his hands with a ‘ Quick I just need just one more book to make the quota!’  He had wanted the discount card which is valid for a few months and in order to so, we needed to spend a certain amount in one single receipt. Being near to the young adults’ section– browsing books for my students reading list, I grabbed what was near to me with a shiny logo on it. It says ‘National Award Winner’ and off to the counter. We made it through with the coveted discount card, which kino/kuniya here is very stingy with.

Image taken from here.

I started with the book that very night when we reached home and by Sunday evening, I was done with it. For an accidental reading, it’s an absolutely candid and insightful account of the lives of an average Native ( Red ) Indians living on reservations, the kind where glimpses of those ( young men with long hair and who go to school on Reservation Schools ) which appeared in the movie Twilight.

The fact that the book won National Book Award and a series of other awards is no big surprise. Written as a first person account of a 14 year old native Indian living in poverty in the Spokane Native Indian reservation in America, and his will to change the course of his life is both heart-wrenching and hilarious. 

The book somehow compelled me to draw parallels between the native Indians to the lives of the native Australians, whom we were more accustomed to calling them the ‘Abos’. Both are plagued with alcoholism, poverty, illiteracy/lack of education, fatalistic syndrome and the identity crisis especially in this century.

I like the angle in which this book was written. Instead of the usual sappy-whiny-woe-is-upon-me-damn-whites-who-stole-our-motherland theme that is usually prevalent in books depicting the fate of natives the world over, this one here was written through the eyes of a high school kid. Instead of depression, his perspective is that of hope and struggle–wanting to both belong in loyalty to his race and also move forward in getting himself out of the reservation. At the cost of being called a traitor and white-men lover, the book is about a kid’s guts to defy it all, including his illness which he was born with.

I think my students–the older ones should be ready for this. I desperately need to wean them off the high school musical stuffs they are hooked onto.

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